THE FLIGHT OF THE DOLLS

By Lucretia P. Hale

How could the heart of doll wish for anything more in such a baby-house! It was fitted up in the most complete style; there were coal-hods for all the grates, and gas-fixtures in the drawing-rooms, and a register (which would not rege., however!), carpets on all the floors, books on the centre-table; everything to make a sensible doll comfortable. But they were not happy, these dolls, seven of them, not counting the paper dolls. They were very discontented. They had always been happy till the Spanish Doll had come among them, dressed in a gypsy dress, yellow and black lace. But she had talked to them so much about the world that all were anxious to go abroad and see it, all,—from the large one that could open and shut her eyes, to the littlest China that could not sit down.

So they set out, one clear night. The Spanish Doll had put a chip in the play-room window that made it easier to open; and the Large Doll had slept outside the baby-house, so she opened the doors and let out the others. All stepped safely upon the piazza. Where should they go first?

The first plan was for the lamb-pen, and they made for it directly. The Spanish Doll walked through its slats; the Large Doll pushed in the little ones, but when she came to go in herself, horrible to say—she stuck! The Spanish Doll pulled, and the little dolls ran out and pushed. No use!

If Angelica Maria could have seen her Large Doll now! But no, Angelica Maria's head was asleep on its pillow; she little knew of the escape of her dolls!

At last said the Large Doll, "Wake up the Lamb and tell him!" Which they did, and he came and butted, till he butted the Large Doll out. "It is no use," said the Large Doll, "we must try something else," and the rest all came out of the pen. They went to the dovecote. The Spanish Doll quickly climbed the ladder; so could the Large Doll. But when she turned to help the little ones, her head was too heavy, and she was not stiff enough to stoop. "We must try something else," said she, and the Spanish Doll had to come down, scolding Spanish all the way. Then they walked down the garden walk, all in a procession, the Large Doll leading the way; they reached the arbor at the foot of the garden. "Let us all sit in a row here," said the Large Doll. So they got upon the seat, facing the door, running up a board that was laid against the seat. Here they sat till the morning began to dawn. Angelica Maria could have seen them now, but she was still fast asleep on her pillow.

"This will never do," exclaimed the Large Doll, as soon as light came, "for they can see us from the play room, our eyes all in a row." They must hide during the day time, and start on their journey when night should come again. But where should they go? They walked up and down the green alleys. The scarlet poppies nodded to them sleepily, and the roses put out a thorn or two, to get them to stop. The little China would have been very tired, but a broad-backed Toad kindly offered to carry her. If Angelica Maria could have seen them now!

"Let us speak to some of the animals," said the Large Doll, "and ask where we shall hide."

"Not the Cat," said a middle-sized Doll, "for she makes up faces."

"Suppose we ask the birds," said the Large Doll, for they were just waking up. The Spanish Doll soon made acquaintance with an Oriole, who agreed to take her up to his nest for the day. It was just fitted up, and Mrs. had not moved in. Fortunately the Spanish Doll was quite slender, so the Oriole could lift her, and her dress matched his feathers. The squirrels kindly took some of the others into their nests under the beech-tree, and the Large Doll tucked the littlest China into a fox-glove. "Where shall I go myself?" thought she. "There is one comfort; if I want to go to sleep, I can shut my eyes, which none of the rest can do wherever they are." So she walked round till she came to a water-melon, with a three-cornered piece cut out. She climbed up on a Rabbit's back, and looked in. A cat had eaten out the inside. "This will do very well for me," said she, "and I feel like having a nap by this time, if only somebody would pull my wire!" The Rabbit knew of a dragon-fly who was strong in his feelers; but the Large Doll had an objection to dragon-flies, so she flung herself in with a jounce, and that closed her eyes. The Rabbit tucked in her skirts, and there she was.

Could Angelica Maria have seen them now! Some hidden among the low branches of the spruces, where the robins had invited them; some still chatting in the bushes, with the jays; the Spanish Doll swinging in the Oriole's nest, way up in the elm. That was life!

But Angelica Maria was calmly eating her breakfast. A friend had invited her to a picnic for the day, so, instead of thinking of her dolls she was planning what she should carry.

One thought she did give to her Large Doll. She wished to take her to the picnic. But, of course, she could not be found! If the Large Doll had only known, how she would have regretted that she had run away! For she was fond of picnics, and now she was sleeping in this damp melon!

But she knew nothing of it till the Spanish Doll came to wake her, and tell her that all the family had gone away for the day. Far up in the Oriole's nest in the elm tree, the Spanish Doll had seen them go. Now, if ever, was the time for fun. So the Large Doll came out of her melon, jumped open her eyes, assembled the rest, and asked what they should do. A large Dor-bug who was going that way, advised them to try the strawberry bed. "Oh, yes," all exclaimed, "the strawberry bed!"

The procession was formed but two were missing! In passing the fox-gloves, where the little China had been hidden, many had shut up never to open again, and she could not be found. A middling-sized Doll, with boots, was missing also! In vain they called; there was no answer.

The Spanish Doll ran up a nasturtium vine, to see that all was safe. She sat on a scarlet nasturtium at the very top of the post, and declared "all was quiet in the strawberry bed," and came down.

What a jolly time they had among the strawberries! The Large Doll sat under a vine, and the strawberries dropped into her mouth, and the stiffer dolls stood up and helped themselves. Such fun as they had! They got strawberries all over their faces, and their hands, and their light dresses! This they liked so much, for they usually had to be careful. How they chatted, and one told how the squirrels lived, and another about the robins. And the Spanish Doll told how delightful it was up in the Oriole's nest. She had half a mind to hire it for the summer. All this was much more charming than their dull baby-house; though the Large Doll declared she had been used all her life to better society than she had yet found in the melon.

But all this festivity was put an end to by a sudden shower. The Spanish Doll, afraid for her black lace, made for a hen-coop, where she had a battle with a Poland. The rest ran into the summer-house.

As soon as the rain ceased, however, all came out from their hiding-places. There was a beautiful rainbow in the sky, and as the dolls walked down the alley, they suddenly saw that the garden gate was open. They ran eagerly toward it, and soon were out in the Wide World! They crossed the broad road, into the fields, into the meadows. They stumbled through a potato-patch, and ran in and out of cornstalks. In their hurry they had to stop to breathe now and then, all but one Doll whose mouth was always open. They reached a little stream and ran along its border, and never stopped till they came to a shady place among some trees, by mossy rocks. Here they might be safe, and here they stopped to think.

Hunger was their first sensation. One of the dolls drew from her pocket a pewter gridiron, which she had snatched from the kitchen fire when they fled, the night before. There were three fish on it, one red, one yellow, one blue. These they shared, and were satisfied for a little while. How lovely was the spot, they began to say. How charming it would be to set up housekeeping among the rushes. It was even suggested that, from time to time, one of them might return to the deserted baby-house, and bring from it comfortable furniture—a dish here, a flat-iron there. But in the midst of their cheerful talk, a terrible accident!

The Spanish Doll was thirsty, and leaning over the edge of a brook, she lost her balance, and fell into the water! The exhausted dolls all rushed to the rescue. All their efforts were vain; but a large Bull-frog kindly came to help, and lifted the Spanish Doll's head from the stream, and propped it up against the reeds. But what a state she was in! The bright color washed from her cheeks, her raven hair all dimmed, the lustre of her eyes all gone. A fashionable Doll in vain attempted consolation, suggesting the greater charms of light hair and rats; in vain did the Large Doll speak of the romance of the adventure, and call the Bullfrog their Don Quixote; a heavy gloom hung over all. It was the Spanish Doll that had led them on, that had kept up their spirits; now hers had failed, and with her feet still in the water, she leaned her head wearily against the reeds.

Suddenly voices were heard! Steps approached! Each doll rushed to a hiding place. It was the voice of Angelica Maria herself! Some of the picnic party had decided to walk down the stream, on their way home, and Angelica Maria was among them.

The Spanish Doll had drawn a reed across her face, to hide it, but the Large Doll had not been able to fly quickly enough, and was left in full view, leaning against a mullein. A blush suffused her cheek. What was Angelica Maria's surprise!

"Who can have brought my Large Doll here?" she exclaimed. "It must have been the boys,"—meaning her brothers; "how wicked of them to leave her out in that shower. And here are the twins, Euphrosyne and Calliope, all hidden among the bushes, and dear little Eunice! They look as if they had been in the wars! How could Tom have known we were coming this way? How naughty of him!"

"Perhaps he meant a little surprise," suggested her uncle. But Angelica Maria picked up her dolls and fondled them, and were not they glad of the rest, after that weary march?

All but the Spanish Doll! Why had she not spoken? And would Angelica Maria have known her Spanish Doll if she had? When the trees were left all silent again, and the voices had died away, perhaps the Spanish Doll was sorry she had hidden her face,—that she had not lifted up her arms. But she was very proud. How could she have borne to be recognized? For she felt that one of her feet was washed off by the flowing stream, and her gay yellow and black dress soiled and torn.

The Bull-frog at last succeeded in lifting her to the shore. A kindly Musk-rat begged her to be his housekeeper; limping, she went into his soft-lined house, and was grateful even for this humble abode. Often she thought of the past, and cheered the simple fireside with tales of adventure, with the grandeur of Life in a Baby-house, and how she might have been the bride of an Oriole. But was she not missed in the baby-house? Angelica Maria wept her loss, but her uncle consoled her by telling her the Spanish Doll must have retired to one of her castles in Spain. This cheered Angelica Maria, and she busied herself in fitting new dresses for the poor travel-stained dolls she had left.

So this was the end of the Flight of the Dolls. You can imagine whether they ever tried it again, or rested satisfied with their comfortable home. A few days after, Angelica Maria saw a little head peeping out of a withered fox-glove. It was that of the littlest China. She was much emaciated, having had nothing to eat but a few drops of honey brought her by a benevolent Bee. Even these had cloyed.

Years after, when the spout of the wood-house was cleared out, the boots of a middling-sized Doll were seen. They belonged to the middling-sized Doll with boots, who had clambered up to the dovecote, and had lost her balance in the gutter. She had passed a miserable existence, summer and winter, bewailing her fate, and looking at her boots.